OSU researcher predicted Oregon volcano

Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The chain is all that is visible of an ocean-bottom hydrophone buried in about six feet of new lava from an April 2011 eruption of Axial Seamount. (photo courtesy of Bill Chadwick, Oregon State University; copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


by Michael Rollins

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Posted on August 9, 2011 at 11:50 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 10 at 10:27 AM

NEWPORT -- Scientist have discovered a new eruption of the Axial Seamount, a volcano on the ocean floor about 250 miles off the Oregon Coast.

The volcano has been monitored for over a decade by Bill Chadwick of Oregon State University and Scott Nooner of Columbia University. They predicted in 2006 that there would be an eruption before the year 2014.

Photos: Oregon volcano research

“Volcanoes are notoriously difficult to forecast and much less is known about undersea volcanoes than those on land," Chadwick said, "so the ability to monitor Axial Seamount, and determine that it was on a path toward an impending eruption is pretty exciting.”

The volcano last erupted in 1998, dropping the floor of the caldera about 10 feet.

The latest eruption was on April 6 and discovered by the scientists on July 28.

Using instruments similar to ones used to monitor tsunamis in deep ocean water, the scientists determined that magma was pushing up the volcano about six inches a year. They decided a second eruption was imminent when the caldera retained its original height.

Read more on the Oregon State volcano study

"Now we can look at all the dramatic changes that have occurred on the sea floor and these eruptions have a huge impact on the seafloor hot springs and animal communities. Some were destroyed, other ones are created anew," explained Chadwick.

The recent eruption spread lava about two miles wide.

Since underwater volcanoes are directly tied to plate movement, experts hope that this study will lead to a better understanding of when future eruptions will occur.